British Military & Criminal History
1900 to 1999.
|Home - UK Medals - Gallantry - The George Cross|
This section deals with various people who have been awarded The George Cross (GC) Medal for bravery.
It is the UK's highest award for bravery by a civilian or a military person where the award of the Victoria Cross (VC) is not applicable. In order of precedence, the George Cross is second only to the Victoria Cross. As no person has won both awards, they can be considered as equals. Since its introduction, the George Cross can be awarded posthumously.
The George Cross has been awarded twice to a group of people, as distinct from an individual: The Island of Malta in 1942 and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in November 1999.
History of the George Cross
When, in 1940, King George VI instituted the George Cross and George Medal the total nature of World War Two had brought war into all civilian life, and there were many acts of outstanding gallantry for which the terms of award of the existing non-military medals were deemed to be inappropriate. Initially only the George Cross could be issued posthumously, but following a new warrant in 1978, the George Medal can be now be issued posthumously.
When the George Cross was introduced, it superseded the Empire Gallantry Medal (EGM) whose living recipients were required to exchange their EGM for the George Cross.
During World War Two (1939-45) there were instances when it was not easy to decide whether a Victoria Cross or a George Cross was the more proper award. The George Cross was intended to be an award for outstanding civilian bravery, but as many people in the armed forces were unavoidably engaged in work not appropriate for strictly military awards, they became eligible for the George Cross equally with civilians. Consequently, 76 of the first 100 awards were made to members of the armed forces. A complete tally of the 152 direct awards of the George Cross up to 1985 shows that only 49 have gone to civilians. Awards of the George Cross have now become so rare that few people are ever likely to see one, or its recipient.
The George Cross is of silver, with the words "For Gallantry" as described in the warrant, and is suspended from a dark blue ribbon one and half inches wide, and is worn on the left breast before all other medals and orders except the Victoria Cross. Ladies not in uniform wear the Cross, suspended from a wide bow of blue ribbon, below the left shoulder. Each Cross is made by the Royal Mint and engraved on the reverse with the recipient's name and date of the London Gazette in the case of direct awards and for the exchanged EGMs, and the date of the action for exchanged AMs and EMs.
Holders of both the GC and GM
The George Medal was instituted at the same time as the George Cross. The George Medal is the second highest award for bravery for a civilian, after the George Cross. Although a lower ranking medal than the George Cross, it has still been very rarely awarded. Before the warrant was changed in 1978, the George Medal could not be awarded posthumously.
A total of eight people have won both the George Cross and George Medal. Of this group of eight, two have won the George Medal twice. Of this group of eight, one civilian person has been awarded both the George Cross and George Medal.
For the details of these eight people click here.
The Island of Malta
The only award of the George Cross which was not published in the London Gazette. The award was made by King George VI to the Governor of Malta by letter dated 15 April 1942:
"To honour her brave people I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.", (sgd) George R.I.
The citation read by President Roosevelt when he visited Malta in December 1943 read:
"In the name of the USA I salute the Island of Malta, its people and its defenders, who, in the cause of freedom and justice and decency throughout the world, have rendered valorous service far above and beyond the call of duty.
Under repeated fire from the skies Malta stood alone and unafraid in the centre of the sea, one tiny, bright flame in the darkness - a beacon of hope in the clearer days when which have come.
Malta's bright story of human fortitude and courage will be read by posterity with wonder and gratitude through all the ages.
What was done in this island maintains all the highest traditions of gallant men and women who from the beginning of time have lived and died to preserve the civilisation for all mankind.", (sgd) Franklin D. Roosevelt, 7 December 1943.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary
The Queen has awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary to honour the courage and dedication of police officersand their families during the troubles in Northern Ireland.
The award, formally agreed by the Queen, was made on the advice of Government ministers.
Announcing the conferring by Her Majesty the Queen of the George Cross for Gallantry to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Buckingham Palace said the award was to honour the courage and dedication of officers and their families who have shared their hardships.
The full citation reads as follows:
"For the past 30 years the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been both the bulwark against, and the main target of, a sustained and brutal terrorist campaign. The Force has suffered heavily in protecting both sides of the community from danger - 302 officers have been killed in the line of duty and thousands more injured, many seriously. Many officers have been ostracised by their own community and others have been forced to leave their homes in the face of threats to them or their families.
"As Northern Ireland reaches a turning point in its political development this award is made to recognise the collective courage and dedication to duty of all of those who have served in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and who have accepted the danger and stress this has brought to them and their families."
The RUC was established in 1922 after the dividing of Ireland into the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.